1 Corinthians 1:1
Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
(a) Paul. The author of the first letter to the Corinthians was the Apostle Paul. The name Paulus or Paul means little, which is an apt name for someone who understood that God chooses the least, the last, and the weakest to display his glory (1 Cor. 1:27). Paul had visited Corinth for a period of eighteen months and planted a church during that time (Acts 18:1). After he left Corinth, he stayed in contact by sending several letters, two of which made it into the Bible. Paul was in Ephesus when he wrote the letter we know as First Corinthians (1 Cor. 16:8), and it was probably written around A.D. 55.
(b) An apostle. An apostle is someone “sent out” as a messenger for God. Originally the word was applied to the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus (Matt. 10:2). But in the early church, others came to be recognized as apostles (e.g., Andronicus and Junias; Rom. 16:7). In a sense, we are all called to be God’s messengers or ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). But in the church, some are uniquely gifted and called to be apostles (1 Cor. 12:28-29). Paul was a stellar example of an apostle and displayed all the signs of an authentic apostle, namely signs and wonders and miracles (2 Cor. 12:12).
(c) By the will of God. What made Paul an apostle? He was called by God (Acts 13:2).
(d) Sosthenes had been the leader of the synagogue in Corinth when Paul arrived in the city. Since he was beaten by the Jews (or Greek converts to Judaism; Acts 18:17), it appears that he had come to believe Paul’s message and become a Christian. Evidently Sosthenes was with Paul when he wrote this letter, hence the greeting.
1 Corinthians 1:2
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:
(a) The church. The original word (ekklēsia) means an assembly of people. In the New Testament, it normally refers to a church, but not always (e.g., Acts 19:32).
(b) To those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus. The Corinthians are infamous as the most misbehaving bunch of Christians in the Bible. They were fractious (1 Cor. 11:18), susceptible to other gospels (2 Cor. 11:4), stingy (2 Cor. 11:8) and they tolerated sexual immorality (1 Cor. 5:1). They got drunk at communion (1 Cor. 11:21), they didn’t respect Paul’s apostolic authority (2 Cor. 10:10, 13:3) and they thought women should be silent in church (1 Cor 14:34). Before Paul addresses their misdeeds, he reminds them of their identity in Christ. “You have been sanctified in Christ.” One with the Lord, you are as holy and righteous as Jesus.
(c) Saints by calling. Throughout the New Testament, the Christians are consistently referred to as saints (e.g., Rom. 1:7, 15:25, 2 Cor. 1:1, Eph. 1:1, Php. 1:1, Col. 1:2, Phm. 1:5, Heb. 13:24). We are called to be saints because we are saints. We have been sanctified in Christ. You don’t become holy by acting holy. Jesus makes you holy. Your part is to mature into what he has already made you.
Further reading: “If we’re holy, why does God call us to be holy?”
(d) Call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. By definition, a Christian or saint is anyone who calls on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21, Rom. 10:13).
1 Corinthians 1:3
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace to you and peace. The apostle of grace begins all of his letters with this gracious salutation. The grace or unmerited favor of God lay at the heart of everything Paul wrote, but it deserves special mention here on account of the Corinthians’ bad behavior.
Some have asked whether we should give grace to Christians when they are doing well, but if they sin, hammer them with the law. Paul answers that question here. The Corinthians were sinning and Paul responds by reminding them of their true identity (“you have been sanctified in Christ”) and by calling them to live from that identity. He will address their errors in due course, but everything he says is bracketed by the grace and peace that comes from God (see 1 Cor. 16:23).
1 Corinthians 1:8-9
who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
(a) Confirm you to the end. The God who called you into fellowship with his son will confirm or keep you strong to the end and blameless.
(b) God is faithful. You do not stand on your faithfulness to God, but on his faithfulness to you. He who called you is always faithful, “reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to his promise, and he can be depended on” (to quote the Amplified Bible).
There are more than 130 scriptures guaranteeing the eternal security of the believer, and this is one of the best.
Further reading: “The top 12 promises on eternal security”
(c) Called into fellowship with His Son. God’s desire is for us to be in fellowship or union with him and actively participate in the shared life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21). Life is meant to be lived from our union with the Lord (John 17:3).
The original word for fellowship (koinōnia) means more than a mere relationship. It describes the spiritual or mystical union that all believers share with Christ. It is the common union of a vine and its branches (John 15:5) and the fusing of spirits (1 Cor. 6:17).
1 Corinthians 1:11
For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.
We don’t know anything about Chloe other than she lived in Corinth and she had people. Who were these people? They were most likely a church that met in her house. In the same way that “men from James” came to Antioch (Gal. 2:12), people from Chloe came to Paul, and he recognized her as a leader within the church community. In short, she was a pastor.
If Paul objected to women pastors, the visit from Chloe’s people would’ve presented him with the opportunity to say so. Of course, Paul said no such thing because Paul had no problem with women in leadership. Instead of rebuking Chloe’s people for putting a woman in charge, he credited them for drawing his attention to a problem.
Further reading: “Women pastors in the Bible”
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